Microsoft Partners with University Program for South Side Nonprofits

The alliance will provide software and technical help to local non-profits.

By Emily Kramer

Microsoft Corporation will provide technical help to South-Side non-profits in a recently announced partnership with the University of Chicago’s Community Programs Accelerator. The accelerator, which offers a variety of resources to nonprofit organizations that work towards improving neighborhoods on the Mid-South Side, has also chosen six new South Side nonprofit organizations to join its program this year.

The partnership between the Community Programs Accelerator and Microsoft will seek to promote technological education, entrepreneurship, and economic development in local communities. This new alliance will provide software and equipment to these six organizations in addition to literacy training open to all nonprofits.

“Based on other collaborations with Microsoft, the Office of Civic Engagement saw an opportunity to connect the Community Programs Accelerator’s capacity building efforts to technology resources in ways that could directly benefit community organizations in areas where they are looking for support,” Shaz Rasul, director of community programs in the Office of Civic Engagement, said.

According to a UChicago News article, President Robert J. Zimmer said that the Community Programs Accelerator plays an integral role in the University’s efforts to confront the societal challenges facing the world around us through its strengths in research and education. “This new alliance with Microsoft supplements our work as an anchor institution to build, sustain and enhance the capacity of South Side nonprofits, and it will help extend their impact in surrounding neighborhoods and across the city,” he said.

In an interview for UChicago News, Margo Day, vice president of U.S. education at Microsoft, said that the company is also enthusiastic about the partnership. They believe that the digital alliance will be able to make technology more accessible to both the local and academic community.

One of the six organizations selected, ETA Creative Arts Foundation, will receive comprehensive support as a core program. This organization provides artistic training as well as performance opportunities at the ETA Gallery Theatre primarily to African Americans. According to Rasul, this foundation was selected due to its longstanding presence in the South Side and its leadership vision for the future.

ETA Creative Arts Foundation will join three existing core programs, which the Accelerator selects based on potential community impact. The others are Coderspace, The Dovetail Project, and Polished Pebbles.

The additional five programs selected for 2016 will receive project-based support at the associate level. Some of the organizations chosen include Blue Gargoyle, Prosperity House and Project Syncere.

Since its launch in May 2014, the accelerator has provided assistance to more than 150 nonprofit organizations in Chicago. UChicago students have provided over 3,500 hours of assistance to accelerator organizations.

The selected programs offer unique services to their respective neighborhoods, but all ultimately have a beneficial social impact on the neighborhoods of the Mid-South Side. The accelerator seeks to assist in the development and strengthening of these community-based organizations while fostering connections between the selected programs.

“Ultimately, organizations that are succeeding in reaching their goals in an effective manner will have a positive impact on the quality of life on the mid-South Side—across all the areas that accelerator organizations are working, including arts, education, [and] technology,” Rasul said.

The University committed to maintain the Community Program Accelerator as one part of an agreement it signed with the City of Chicago in December.